Silly for us, significant for her

She might have been beautiful in her youth, but that was a long time back, and anyway that feeling alone was not helping me much when it came to dealing with some of her idiosyncrasies, 13 which were on full display in her final few years.

Having fancy ideas is one thing, but wanting everyone to follow them is quite another  Her obstinacy in expecting everyone to follow some of her whims could have enraged even those who are considered the epitome of patience.

Every night, when she announced that she was going off to sleep, appa had to respond “Go sleep” exactly thrice. No fewer than three times was acceptable. If on some days he was sleepy and said it only once or twice, she stood there and continued announcing in a loud voice, “I’m going to sleep.” This routine, with her voice becoming louder each time, continued until appa succumbed and said “Go sleep” exactly thrice.

Her gold standard practices to ensure the security of our house at nights had to be seen to be believed. For instance, after locking our back door with a big lock that would have discouraged the most committed burglar, she would keep a light plastic bucket pressed against it. I pointed out many times that even a child knew that the light bucket stood no chance against a thug who had overcome the mighty lock, but to no avail.

Another running joke in the family was about amma’s bags within bags within bags within…Many were the times when I used to be frantically searching for a bag to take with me for an errand, and after finding one, annoyed to see a bag within it, and another bag within the second bag, almost ad infinitum. She did this with purses too. While it seemed really amusing and silly at that time, I am not so sure now, when I see so many bags of different sizes littered all over the house – surely, putting bags within bags would make the whole place look more tidy and elegant? 14

Her obsession with switching lights off at nights was the talk of our family gatherings.

From the room where we slept, one could easily see whether or not our front door light was switched on, but hell no, I had to walk out of the room, approach the front door, look at the glass above the door to ensure that the light was not on and report all these back to her.

Imagine my frustration when after a long day’s work, I had just just got down to bed (and that too down on the floor as that’s where I slept) and had just closed my eyes, when she starts egging me to get up and check out the front door light, something that was plainly visible to me right from where I was.

Sometimes, a few minutes after I had actually started to sleep, she would call out and request, “Hey, can you please get up and check if the TV plug has been pulled out of its socket?”. I had tried telling her that it really did not matter whether or not it was pulled out as long as it was switched off. But well, has reasoning ever worked with those who had decided that their way was the only way?

As logic was not getting me anywhere, and refusal was out of question, I explored cheating. A few times, I tried to cheat her by pretending to be asleep when she called me out for one of her pointless errands. But she was as smart as she was silly. Rather than trying to wake up someone not asleep, she would announce, “All right then, an 80-year old lady has to get out of bed now for this, and perhaps have a fall along the way.”

No prizes for guessing what happens next.

Dominant <= Silly for us, significant for her => A tale of two pumps



13. The term idiosyncrasy comes from Greek – idios (one’s own) + krasis (blend of four humours – choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine). Amma certainly wasn’t phlegmatic, not very melancholic either, so the two humours that somehow combined to create her quirks were her temper and her optimism.

14.  While searching out of curiosity for the search term “bag within bag”, I found this image –


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